3rd Street Market Hall targets mid-October opening

Helena V Berbie

The long-awaited opening of 3rd Street Market Hall in downtown Milwaukee is almost here.

The food hall and entertainment venue, located inside The Avenue development on West Wisconsin Ave., is slated to open to the public on Oct. 18, said co-developer and restaurateur Omar Shaikh, in an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee.

However, 3rd Street Market Hall will make its debut on Oct. 4 during the Society of American Travel Writers’ annual convention, taking place in Milwaukee Oct. 3-7.

“We’re expecting a couple hundred travel writers from around the world to come in and we’ll get to showcase our first phase of the food hall opening,” said Shaikh, who’s also partner at upscale steakhouse Carnevor on North Milwaukee Street.

That first phase includes 10 to 12 food vendors, the market’s 40-seat central bar, and several entertainment amenities like shuffleboard courts, snookball, a selfie museum, old-school arcade games, and a turf area with yard games and seating.

The plan is to have 19 vendors in the food hall by February of 2022, said Shaikh. That was the number of tenants initially on board prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused numerous delays in the project.

Dairyland Old-Fashioned Frozen Custard and Hamburgers and its off-shoot Mid-Way Bakery were announced in spring as the food hall’s anchor tenants. Dairyland currently serves its signature burgers, fried chicken sandwiches and other Wisconsin favorites in Oak Creek and at Zocalo Food Park in Walker’s Point.

The business will also manage four miniature vendor spaces, or hawker stalls, serving as incubators for new dining concepts.

Other vendors that have announced plans to move into food hall include Super Nova Coffee & Doughnuts, Anytime Arepa and Middle East Side. In addition, local t-shirt company Brew City Brand will sell 3rd Street Market Hall-branded apparel and glassware as well as its own merchandise, said Shaikh. 

A vegan restaurant concept, whose name has yet to be announced, will also open during phase one.

3rd Street Market Hall’s second phase will bring Topgolf Swing Suite simulator areas as well as the four or five remaining food vendors.

Despite the pandemic’s toll on the local restaurant industry, Shaikh said the market hall is on track to secure 19 vendors by early next year.

“It’s still a scary time (for our vendors), but things seem to be getting better. It’s hard to commit to opening full restaurants right now and everybody is short staffed, but this is a little bit of a different model where you don’t need as much support staff,” he said.

In June, the 3rd Street Market Hall project was granted a $2 million loan from the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp. Shaikh, along with co-developers Josh Krsnak, Tony Janowiec utilized the funds to support the buildout of some of the tenant spaces so vendors didn’t have to pay for that themselves.

“Frankly, speaking a lot of these restaurateurs didn’t have the capital to be able to open, so we raised millions more … to fund some some of the agreements of the newest vendors that went from the original structures to now more of turn-key structure,” said Shaikh. 

With the food hall’s opening finally in sight, Shaikh said he’s never been more excited and nervous for a project in his life. But he’s reassured by the increased interest and mounting  anticipation from The Avenue’s commercial tenants as well as the broader Milwaukee community.

“It’s reassuring to see 30 to 50 per day trying to walk in the food hall off North 3rd Street, and it’s also reassuring that basically everywhere I go, from kids’ sports activities to Carnevor, to an event or Brewers’ game, people are asking all the time when it’s opening,” he said.

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